What to Know
- Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh wrongly claimed that he was legally allowed to drink beer as a senior in high school in Maryland
- Kavanaugh was 17 the year the drinking age turned to 21; he would have not made it under a grandfather clause for people 18, 19 or 20
- Kavanaugh could legally drink in nearby Washington D.C. for the final five months of high school
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has readily acknowledged that he often drank beer during his prep school days and made a point in his congressional testimony that seniors could buy beer legally in Maryland at the age of 18.
But Kavanaugh was never a legal drinker in that state when he was a high schooler — he was still 17 when that state's drinking age was increased to 21 on July 1, 1982. Anyone who turned 18 after that date, including Kavanaugh's classmates, also would have been unable to drink legally in the state.
The law was different in the District of Columbia. There, until 1986, 18-year-olds could legally buy and consume beer. That means Kavanaugh was legal there for only the final four months of his senior year at Georgetown Prep, following his Feb. 12, 1983 birthday.
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Kavanaugh's drinking has come under intense scrutiny after California professor Christine Blasey Ford alleged that a heavily intoxicated Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while they were both teenagers at a Maryland house party during the summer of 1982.
On Friday, the White House argued that any claim Kavanaugh had said he was legally allowed to consume beer during high school is inaccurate and that he "never suggested that all of his high school drinking was of legal age," said White House spokesman Raj Shah. He said Kavanaugh's testimony about drinking and the drinking age was "for context" of how Maryland high schoolers obtained beer.
The 18-year-old limit "allowed friends to legally purchase beer, and for him to drink at high school parties," Shah added.
When he was pressed Thursday at his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing about his drinking habits in high school, Kavanaugh explained:
"My friends and I, boys and girls. Yes, we drank beer. I liked beer. I still like beer... The drinking age as I noted, was 18, so the seniors were legal. Senior year in high school, people were legal to drink."
In a Fox News interview on Monday, Kavanaugh said, "Yes, there were parties. And the drinking age was 18. And yes, the seniors were legal."
With the law change in Maryland, where the students lived and where the offending house party presumably would have occurred, no one in Kavanaugh's class was of legal age unless they were 21.
In his testimony, Kavanaugh, who has denied all of Ford's accusations, stated correctly that the drinking age had been 18 in Maryland for "most" of his time in high school. But in fact, that never applied to him.
While he admitted in his congressional testimony that there were probably occasions during his time at Georgetown Prep that he had consumed "too many beers," a combative Kavanaugh denied he had ever gotten out of control or acted inappropriately toward women.
"I liked beer," he said. "But I did not drink beer to the point of blacking out, and I never sexually assaulted anyone."
There was a grandfather clause in the Maryland law, but only for those who were 18, 19 or 20 on the day the increase went into effect, thereby not including Kavanaugh.
Alcoholic consumption by Kavanaugh also would have been illegal during notorious Beach Week, an annual trip to the Eastern Shore that involved heavy drinking, according to numerous eyewitness accounts.